Congressional involvement debated in potential Syria strikes
August 26th, 2013
03:32 PM ET
10 years ago

Congressional involvement debated in potential Syria strikes

Washington (CNN) - What Congress needs to do in terms of signing off on a military strike in Syria or elsewhere is a subject of debate.

While only Congress can officially declare war, legislators have not taken that step since World War II. The conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were all fought without a formal declaration.

The 1973 War Powers Resolution - a response to Vietnam - gives a president 60 days after the start of a conflict to obtain congressional approval for sending U.S. forces to war, followed by a 30-day extension to end hostilities.

In the case of the 2011 Libyan intervention, the combined 90-day period ended without any congressional expression of support for America's role in the NATO-led operation.

Administration officials argued at the time that President Barack Obama didn't need congressional authorization because U.S. forces were only playing a supporting role in Libya, and hadn't engaged in what the War Powers Resolution defines as hostilities.

The War Powers Resolution, however, also requires presidents to "consult" with Congress before engaging in military action. So has the Obama administration been consulting with Congress on a possible military strike in Syria?

Top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee have been briefed by the White House and Pentagon, a congressional source familiar with the briefings told CNN.

Details about who conducted the briefings and when they took place were not immediately available, but the source said one briefing took place at the White House while others were done over the phone.

However, a spokesman for the head of the House Armed Services Committee, California Rep. Buck McKeon, said the Republican chairman had not received a similar briefing.

"There has been no outreach from the Department of Defense to Chairman McKeon or the House Armed Services Committee since the suspected use of chemical weapons occurred last week," McKeon spokesman Claude Chafin said.

House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia, released a statement Monday calling on Obama "to consult Congress as prescribed by the War Powers Resolution."

"Congress is not a potted plant in this process, and President Obama should call us back into emergency session before authorizing the use of any military force," Rigell argued. "We stand ready to share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement."

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted Monday that the White House has not reached members of Congress for consultation.

"The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a written statement. "One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not yet taken place, but it is an essential part of the process. And meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken."

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, did not respond to inquiries about whether they have been briefed.

House and Senate aides from both parties said lawmakers may want to vote on a still undefined resolution supporting a U.S. military response to the alleged chemical weapons attack. Aides said it was too early to know what the resolution would say.

At this point, it doesn't appear a vote would happen until after the Congress returns to session, as scheduled, after Labor Day.

One Senate Democratic aide argued that as long as the president is not trying to commit troops to Syria, he does not need congressional authorization in advance to launch an attack on Syria.

"The law is pretty clear," the aide told CNN. "The president has the authority to take a range of actions and then must notify Congress."

Filed under: Congress • Syria
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Congress hasn't done ANYTHING positive since 2010! Why should we bother working with these traitors?

    August 26, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted Monday that the White House has not reached members of Congress for consultation.
    So what. It would be different if US bombs or paratroopers were dropping out of the skies above Syria. Doesn't Pres. Obama have the right to discuss it with his own advisors, first? Apparently, not.

    August 26, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. sonny chapman

    Heaven forbid Obama cuts all the Wanna-Be Generals out of the process. Remember all of those Mighty Repub. Congressman marching to the microphone in 2003 railing that we had to "take down Saddam" ? It was impressive:to them.

    August 26, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. Gary

    Viagra sales for Republicans will go down. They have a new way to get stimulated. Potential War.

    August 26, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  5. Anthony in California

    All congress is going to do is muck it up. Thank GOD Obama didnt consult too many of the COngressional Republicans on the Bin Laden raid... they'd probably have messed THAT up too just to make the President look bad.

    August 26, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. PEPPY

    @ Rudy, they were responding to whether Bamman had contacted them. if you cant see the ineptness in D.C. on both parties, then I recommend pulling your face out of bammans backside and look around.

    August 26, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. Tony in Maine

    Congress should go back into the restrooms and continue doing whatever it was they've been doing since 2010.

    As far as John McCain is concerned, he needs to be slapped alongside the head and reminded that comments on foreign policy stop this side of the US border. Running all over the world running down President Obama (He beat you, John – deal with it) violates a norm that has been in place since forever.

    August 26, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    With the toxic political environment in Washington DC, Congress will probably extend any debate well into 2016. Speaker Boehner couldn't get the necessary votes from his caucus to vote on a bi-partisan declaration that the sky appears blue to most people.

    August 26, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota


    It has come to my attention that no matter how many times you change your name, you still post the same garbage over and over again. Rather dull of you, don't you think?

    August 26, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine


    @ Rudy, they were responding to whether Bamman had contacted them. if you cant see the ineptness in D.C. on both parties, then I recommend pulling your face out of bammans backside and look around.
    Pull yours out of Boehner's, McConnell's and all the others you've tunnelled your way into as well. Instead of taking partisan shots, take the first step to do something, unless of course you're all talk and no action.

    August 26, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Larry in Houston

    Imagine that !! LOL ... Can u imagine if you had to rely on the current Congress ?? LOL .....can't Get anywhere as it is.....they may be on vacation, by the time something important comes around....LOL....Our Founding Fathers are probably rolling in their graves, surely......W0W ! How pathetic that bunch is.....worst part, is the majority of them (90%)are "Lifers"

    August 26, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. jinx9to88

    Yep the US has to keep those government contractors working over in the middle east, right Dick Cheney? So why not start blowing up Syria so we can spend 100 millions to rebuild it so Dick Cheney can get more rich. Nice!!!

    August 26, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. jinx9to88

    Do these people realize how much mouths just 1 million dollars can feed here in this country? These people are crazy!!

    August 26, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |